That’s the basic advice many parents received from their children’s schools in the aftermath of the massacre at the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school last week. I heard that advice repeated on various cable news shows all weekend, as additional details of the horrendous tragedy came to light.
That is what I so desperately want to be able to tell my almost-13-year-old. But I can’t reassure her about any of that. In today’s world where, unfortunately, these types of shooting sprees and killings have become almost commonplace, how do we dare give reassurance to our children that they are safe?
I wish I could do that. What I can promise my daughter is that her dad and I will do everything in our power to keep her safe. We can remind her that, as always, her teachers and other adults at her school will always do as much as they can to make her school a safe place to be. But with children who are old enough to have knowledge of the killings of 20 first-graders, I think there is a fine line between what we can actually promise our children and giving them the truth.
I’m not saying we should scare our children into worrying that such a tragedy like the one that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School is likely to happen to them. There are certainly many ways to be honest with our kids and still help them to feel that there are many wonderful, kind people in the world, aside from family members, who make their well-being a priority. But as the parent of seventh-grader, this weekend forced me to consider how to be honest with her about the randomness of danger and evil while helping her to understand that most of us are safe most of the time.
But for me, there is a big difference between that and giving our children blanket assurances that they shouldn’t concern themselves with the question of whether what happened in Newtown could happen in their town. I know some parents are going to think that my approach to all of this is wrong, and that whether it’s entirely accurate or not, we owe it to our kids to make them believe they always are safe in the usual places they go.
But my girl is a smart cookie. She knows a lie when she hears one. And I’ve promised her many times that I would never lie to her (leave me alone about Santa — that’s different). So my husband and I will do our very best to make sure she knows everyone is doing the very best that they can to keep her safe. What I can’t do is promise her that she always will be.
Read more from me at my place PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.
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